The 50 Best Films Of 2019
Making this end of the year list is a cathartic experience for me. In a way, I get to tell the world the best films that came out of a year full of film releases. The 50 Best Movies of 2019 list is my way to suggest some of those great films that never see the light of the day. However, it also serves as a way for me to revisit them. Pretty much like every year, I saw 150 odd films resulting in an experience that had its highs and lows. The most difficult task is not to pick up these 50 films but to arrange them in a way that could replicate what I felt about them. Making this list has also made me realize that there’s no way I can satisfy my readers. So, for the sake of putting it out there – I make the list of the 50 best films of 2019 for myself. Sure, I might rank your favorite film a little low or even feel that they don’t deserve a place here but that’s what I’m going to do. Feel free to comment on the films that you think should have made the cut.
50. A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood
Director: Marielle Heller | Language: English | Runtime: 109 Minutes
There’s a shot in Marielle Heller’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” where Tom Hanks who plays Fred Rogers, breaks the fourth wall and stares at the screen for a good 20 seconds. The shot is designed in a way that makes you feel that a person is staring into your soul trying to help you deal with yourself.
It’s one of the many moments in the film that makes you feel feelings in the exact way you should. Which is exactly why the film doesn’t seem unnecessary in spite of having made us relive Mr. Rogers’ life post the beautiful 2018 documentary ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbour?‘ On the contrary, it works as a perfect companion piece that compassionately works it’s charm like a warm, fuzzy therapy session.
Related to Best Films Of 2019 – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood  Review: A compassionate tale about acceptance
Directors: Ljubomir Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska | Language: Turkish | Runtime: 89 Minutes
As sweet as the lady it portrays and as heartbreaking as life itself, “Honeyland” is a beautiful character portrait that defies it’s documentary style and feels like fiction with fabricated conflicts. But there’s no denying the fact that it’s a truly tender story about human endurance.
Recollecting the exceptional life of a lone beekeeper, the documentary explains why certain people tend to connect with nature more than many others.
Similar to Best Films Of 2019 – Honeyland : ‘Sundance’ Review – An Exceptional and Unembellished Tale of a Woman’s Connection with Nature
48. Ordinary Love
Directors: Lisa Barros D’Sa, Glenn Leyburn | Language: English | Duration: 92 Minutes
When two people get married they vow to keep each other sane in sickness and in health. However, very few of those relationships are actually tested when sickness arrives. Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn’s British drama “Ordinary Love” is about two people who have to deal with the trials and tribulations that Cancer brings with it.
Finding humor in unexpected places, this is a truly beautiful romance that points at the necessity of grace when faced with adversities. Powered by two strong performances by Lesley Manville and Liam Neeson, this is a little film about the true essence of living together.
Director: Rohena Gera | Language: Hindi | Duration: 99 min
Rohena Gera’s “Sir” is a film that is set inside the confinements of the humongous skyscrapers in Mumbai. It is about a stilted kind of romance that starts boiling between the two people at its center. The film doesn’t resort to questionable circumstances, thanks to Gera’s sensitive direction and a feeling of mutual appreciation.
It is a film about the romance that blooms in the air in spite of the restrictions that are imposed on it. “Sir” is a film that is charming even when it talks about how hopes are lost when one doesn’t really get what they want. But the optimistic tone and humanistic core that tells people to be themselves makes for a glorious watch.
Similar to Best Films Of 2019 – Sir  Review: An Intelligent Romance that understands Atypical Confinements
Director: Mark Jenkin | Language: English | Duration: 89 min
Mark Jenkin’s “Bait” is essentially a film about the gentrification of a certain Cornish community. However, it is how he channels his images that make it a truly groundbreaking achievement. By timing the narrative as a loose thread that shifts gears, Jenkin bends the time dimension to showcase class struggle with an anti-realistic touch.
His choice of juxtaposing imagery serves both as frustrating and increasingly urgent reminder that certain fascets of society are still wrestling with the same fate that their past brought to them.
Directors: Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles | Language: Portuguese | Duration: 131 Minutes
“Bacurau” can be seen as a grim portrayal of a Brazilian community protecting and defending itself from forces that govern the contemporary world. However, to me, it is a brutally unhinged B-movie that turns the western genre on its head to give a truly thrilling cinema experience that harkens back to the idiocentric aesthetics of Robert Rodriguez and the over-the-top bloodshed of a Quentin Tarantino film.
It is a crazy, psychedelic trip that unearths any kind of realism to truly revel in its maddening tone condemning modernity by putting two fingers up.
Similar to the Best Films Of 2019 – Bacurau : ‘Cannes’ Review – “Seven Samurai” with a South American Charm
Director: Sam Mendes | Language: English | Duration: 119 min
Sam Mendes redefines a truly immersive experience with his single-shot wonder “1917.” Lensed by maestro Roger Deakins – who is no less than the director here helps build this intense war film about the horrors of being on the battlefield. To add to it the film adds a breathtaking production design and a clear eye for chaos to the mix.
A brutal, tense and unforgiving film that achieves the highs in technicality by balancing it with a triumphant look at the bravery on the war-front.
43. Little Women
Director: Greta Gerwig | Language: English | Duration: 135 Minutes
A delightful, timely upgrade on the “Little Women” story, Greta Gerwig’s adaption of the classic doesn’t nudge it’s sacred source material and yet modernizes its sweet essence. In this version of the traditional melodrama, Gerwig lets her frantic energy seen in her first feature take a backseat; carving a triumphant tale about owning your own story.
Featuring an all-star cast that seems like they were tailor-made for these respective roles, the film is an observational, decidedly feminist and truly charming story that is definitely one of the better coming-of-age films of 2019.
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42. Queen of Hearts
Director: May el-Toukhy | Language: Danish | Duration: 127 Minutes
You wouldn’t believe what May el-Toukhy’s “Queen of Hearts” hides within plain sight. A tale of hidden passion turns into something truly unsettling without showing a hint of change in tone. Finding a tricky balance in a narrative that seems too familiar – as far as films about infidelity go, May el-Toukhy’s film pictures a complicated woman who heightens the very fabric of reality by selling it off for merely trying to hold it all together.
Powered by a gut-wrenching third act that literally feels like an exploding bomb ready to set off, this is an insidious tale of abuse at its most extreme.
41. Ad Astra
Director: James Gray | Language: English | Duration: 124 minutes
A sci-fi odyssey about human existence, James Gray’s “Ad Astra” is an inwards journey about the necessity to feel things. It is about realizing how morality often latches onto the last possible ray of hope and how relationships can only be saved and mended with love.
Recounting Roy’s journey that feels like it sprawls out a hidden diary of a child trying to articulate every moment of his life, the film is beautiful, ambitious and features one of the single greatest Brad Pitt performances ever.
Related to the Best Films Of 2019 – Ad Astra  Review – An Exhilarating cinematic Experience
40. Honey Boy
Director: Alma Har’el | Language: English | Duration: 93 minutes
“Honey Boy” is a film that doesn’t leave your mind long after you have seen it. The reason is the kind of uniqueness director Alma Har’el and writer Shia LaBeouf manage to conjure out of this pretty done-to-death coming of age troop.
It is a deeply-personal, therapeutic and heartfelt film that doesn’t overplay with its dreamlike capability and serves as a cathartic experience for anyone who needs to know that learning and growing up keeps hitting your over and over – until you actually learn to hit back and level up.
Also, Read – The 15 Must-See Coming Of Age Films Of 2019
39. Les Misérables
Director: Ladj Ly | Language: French | Runtime: 104 Minutes
An extension of his own short film, Ladj Ly’s “Les Misérables” is about a really terrible day in the life of Stephane – A newly appointed agent in the anti-criminality brigade of Montfermeil (Paris). Fueled by Pink Noise’s fascinating score, the film is an energetic portrayal of the marginalized who are forced to live a life that is controlled by an unearthly entity above them.
It is a film that rests on its ability to leave you breathless for moments of intense yet necessary rage up until a subtle reveal of police brutality and the anger that is left inside people because of constant injustice.
Director: Bong Joon-ho | Language: Korean | Runtime: 132 Minutes
Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar winner is an unsettling black comedy about class struggle. A twisted slyly plotted social satire that is clever enough to engage you in a battle of wits before pulling the rug from under your feet. Settling in for a narrative about a family trying to keep it together by overpowering the capitalistic battle, Bong Joon-ho has constructed a low-key tragic comedy that insists on being more than just that.
Performed with almost a dance-like calibration and acted with the same sour taste that resists your mouth when you are trying to chew more than you can swallow, “Parasite” is a beast that constantly surprises you with where it can perch in your conscience.
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37. The Art of Self-Defense
Director: Riley Stearns | Language: English | Runtime: 104 minutes
Riley Stearns’ sophomore film “The Art of Self-Defense” is a bone-dry comedy about the toxicity of being a modern alpha-man. The film follows the life of Casey Davies – a simple, introverted accountant who decides to join a strange Karate School after being beaten up by a group of goons on his way home.
Presented as a sharp commentary about the representation of contemporary men, the film drives the competitive nature that has been forced into each one of us. Constantly driving on the thin line of absurdly funny and absolutely creepy, the film is a peculiar reverse-answer to the film we all can’t talk about.
Also, Read – The Art of Self-Defense : ‘Fantasia’ Review – A pitch-black satire on Toxic Masculinity
36. To Let
Director: Chezhian Ra | Language: Tamil | Runtime: 95 minutes
Chezhian Ra’s “To Let” is one of the only Indian films of 2019 that I found to be a genuinely moving experience. Chronicling the life of humiliation and stress of a low-income family stuck in the flux of trying to find a new home they could rent out, Chezhian’s realism lets you into the little walls that the family dwells in. There’s nothing magnetic and exceptional about their humble abode but it’s their home after all.
The greatest asset of this little film is its ability to be just a small story about the various inconveniences one faces when their temporary existence is followed by their self-esteem and freedom being questioned. Free of melodramatic tonal inconsistency, this is a truly lived-in film about the injustice caused due to rapid urbanization.
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Director: Julius Onah | Language: English | Runtime: 109 minutes
“Luce” is one of the biggest surprises of 2019. It’s a socio-psychological thriller that intensifies like a ticking bomb. Powered by a bombastic performance by Kelvin Harrison Jr. the film settles onto modern-day conveniences to question where a child’s real character lies.
The interesting part of Luce is the kind of uncertainty it leaves you with. It keeps you guessing about its true colors only to ambiguously drench you with uncomfortable questions. A powerful tool to deep-dive into the puddle of learning to live with yourself while also reflecting on the expectations set by people about who you are.
Part of – Boys in Trouble: Young Ahmed and Luce
34. The Farewell
Director: Lulu Wang | Language: Mandarin | Runtime: 98 minutes
First things first, Lulu Wang is a complete rockstar. Props to her for making an American film that consists of an all-Chinese star cast and has English as only the second language of choice. Moreover, it is a bold statement that she makes about cultural identity and a mutually exclusive existence that half of the world is forced to follows. “The Farewell” hence becomes a gentle, universal plea that showcases all the perks and drawbacks of having a family.
It also revels in the themes of death – its life-altering power and how someone’s identity is brought to a confusing standstill because of modernity. Also, it has the cutest Grandma character ever so there’s that.
Director: Antoneta Kastrati | Language: Albanian | Runtime: 97 minutes
Kosovo-born, LA-based writer/director Antoneta Kastrati’s “Zana” is her feature-length debut. After a decade long career in documentary filmmaking, Kastrati dives into the haunting traumas of the Kosovo war. Following the life of Lume (Adriana Matoshi) – A middle-aged woman struggling to conceive a child while being constantly conflicted with nightmares of the past, the film is both a heartbreaking portrayal of contemporary issues that prevail in the country and the shattering truths of war.
Lensed by Sevdije Kastrati’ (the director’s sister), the film is an intimate, immersive account of post-wartime traumas and the heartbreaking story of motherhood.
32. The Bare Necessity
Director: Erwan Le Duc | Language: French | Runtime: 102 Minutes
Erwan Le Duc’s “The Bare Necessity” is essentially a quirky french romantic comedy. That said, it has oodles of charm and charisma in its melancholic existentialist undertones. The plot progression is around an eccentric, free-spirited and enigmatic woman called Juliette who bursts into the life of the sleepy town that is governed by inspector Pierre Perdrix.
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Together they embark on a journey that makes Perdrix understand the true value of life and what he needs to prioritize. With odd characterizations, weird culty conflicts and carefully constructed imagery, this is Wes Anderson in reverse.
31. All is Well
Director: Eva Trobisch | Language: German | Runtime: 90 minutes
“All is Well” is about Janne. A middle-aged woman who keeps living her life as if nothing’s wrong even after she is raped by her boss’s brother in law after a high-school reunion party. The film deals with the many consequences that Janne has to face because of her choice of keeping it all inside.
Eva Trobisch’s daring first feature is a psychologically complex portrait of a woman’s unreleased trauma and the guilt that hangs like a tight rope around her neck. It is a disturbing, anxiety-filled ride that comprehends what it is like to live with a self-harming bottling up of emotions.
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30. For Sama
Directors: Waad al-Kateab, Edward Watts | Language: Arabic | Runtime: 100 Minutes
In Waad al-Kateab & Edward Watts’ devastating documentary “For Sama,” a mother films the systematic destruction of Aleppo, Syria. This deeply personal and intimate portrayal of lives being torn to shreds by a war on humanity is filled with horrific images that can disturb even the most stone-hearted people.
Yet, in all it’s gloomy, depression moments this is a pure, heartfelt love letter from a mother to her child. It is both – an upsetting and shocking mirror of the realities we so readily ignore and the little bundles of hope that keep us going. Powerful, draining and unforgettable!
Director: Christian Petzold | Language: German | Runtime: 101 minutes
I have come to the realization that German director Christian Petzold is a master of foreshadowing. His films don’t plod you to connect with the plights of the characters. On the contrary, he believes in observing how they act when they are put in certain scenarios. Quite like life, his characters, their motif, and their actions are unpredictable.
With “Transit” Petzold once again dives into the ambitious conflict between life and death. Taking up the identity of a dead writer in a place where fascism has just arrived, Franz Rogowski plays Georg like a restraint version of Rick Blaine – only to realize that his fate is more hopeless than the Casablanca see-off.
28. Ash is the Purest White
Director: Jia Zhangke | Language: Chinese | Runtime: 136 minutes
Jia Zhangke’s “Ash Is Purest White” is a gangster romance of epic proposition. Sprawling over a time frame of around two decades, the latest film in the Chinese auteurs’ canon witnessed him going down similar paths of rapid urbanization and life choices having a lasting wound on personalities and relationships.
Qiao is essentially one of Zhangke’s strongest and most fragile characters ever. There’s no second thought when it comes to taking care of herself but at its core, she is a woman with a heart that beats for a man who is so wrapped up in his own world that it is impossible for him to look beyond his distant masculinity.
Director: Jordan Peele | Language: English | Runtime: 120 Minutes
While I wasn’t big on Jordan Peele’s breakout horror film “Get Out” I absolutely adored “Us.” It is more comprehensive in how it carefully constructs a narrative around a home-invasion genre film to articulate some of the most urgent and pressing issues plaguing the real-world.
Ambiguous yet bold, fiendishly clever yet resounding in its social commentary, “Us” never leaves the bounds of it’s razor-sharp and carefully constructed screenplay of the horrors of human connection. Features an excellent performance by Lupita Nyong’o it is a true horror film in all its loose inhibitions.
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Director: Alexandre Lehmann | Language: English | Runtime: 89 Minutes
In Alexandre Lehmann’s “Paddleton” the game that the two neighbors cum pals play with each serves as a metaphor for life. If the ball is the hardships, the paddle represents the love, compassion, and sorrows we face. The wall, of course, hits those back until the one time the ball ends up in the big drum.
A gentle, funny and poignant bromance for the ages, Paddleton is a charming comedy about dying. Didn’t expect ‘charming’ and ‘dying’ in the same line, right? Lehmann’s follow up to the black and white heartbreaker “Blue Jay” stars Ray Romano and Mark Duplass and both of them make that possible.
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Director: Quentin Dupieux | Language: French | Runtime: 77 Minutes
Quentin Dupieux has been known to make perplexing films that don’t abide by any rule of filmmaking. They are often meta, self-critics about independent filmmaking while also being absurd, bonkers and laugh out loud funny comedies about absolutely nothing. “Deerskin” is no different.
The film is about Georges – A middle-aged man and his obsession with a 100% Deerskin jacket. After a supposed breakup, he finds a new vision in making snuff films. Also, he wishes to be the only person in the world who wears a jacket. That said, bizarreness ensues.
24. The Truth
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda | Language: French | Runtime: 106 Minutes
“The Truth” might seem like a major diversion for Koreeda – the Japanese auteur of gentle family dramas, but deep down it’s leading lady’s otherwise grand life, it is still a gentle drama about family dynamics. It is a funny, poignant and carefully constructed drama about a family reuniting to understand how memory can be such an enlightening entity.
Filmed as a chamber piece, Koreeda uses Catherine Deneuve’s mesmerizing screen presence as a vexed, veteran French actress trying to reconcile with her daughter to sharply critic and investigate some insightful openings into how relationships work.
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23. Uncut Gems
Director: Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie | Language: English | Runtime: 135 minutes
The Safdie brothers’ latest outing kicks off like a bullet that never stops. That is off course until it actually does. “Uncut Gems” is a razor-sharp, anxiety-filled journey that follows the life of Howard Ratner – A degenerate, motormouth gems dealer who literally lives his life on the edge.
Filled with dazzling wordplay and a sharply written script, the Safdies up their game after the chase filled paranoia of “Good Time” and the hypnotic, drug-fueled journey of Arielle Holmes in “Heaven Knows What” with an outstanding tale of addiction and despair in the ultimate hopelessness of hustling it out. Also, Adam Sandler is incredible in this one.
Similar to Best Films Of 2019 – Uncut Gems (2019) Netflix Review – The Insatiable Appetite of a Self-Destructive Hustler
22. The Irishman
Director: Martin Scorsese | Language: English | Runtime: 209 Minutes
“The Irishman” is a carefully constructed Gangster film that slowly unravels its characters and their motivations. This is vital to really understand the maturity that Socrses brings with a final hook that completely leaves you awestruck. The lack of ‘real’ motif in Frank Sheeran’s (played by Robert De Niro) life of treading-on the ranks really holds this runtime together.
It is a funny, poignant and mature Gangster film that is a sorrowful reminder that violence and gains cannot withstand the toil of time. It serves as a kind of reckoning to his own gangster films as well as those that are churned out every other month. A dense film that recollects mobster swagger with a counter-balanced narrative that closes the curtain on them with a fade-out goodbye.
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Director: Kantemir Balagov | Language: Russian | Runtime: 130 Minutes
There have been post-war trauma movies in the past but none of them really managed to show it from the perspective of women with such immersive skills. Kantemir Balagov’s “Beanpole” recounts the life of two women on the edge of their survival instinct – fighting with their wits, their tragic livelihood and with each other.
It is a mature and devastating look at how war completely changes people. On one hand, we have a notably tall woman who literally loses her voice after being inflicted by triggers that make her freeze. On the other, we have her best friend who had left everything in her life to take revenge – only to find her wanting everything back. It is a tragedy that piles up one bleak situation after the other, but is in fact, about the desperation of having a life that feels one’s own.
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20. Varda by Agnès
Director: Agnès Varda | Language: French | Runtime: 115 Minutes
What’s better than a filmmaker looking back at their own work and explaining the little intricacies of their technique and influences? While it might serve as a very poorly constructed guest lecture at a film school, Agnès Varda’s joyous little film “Varda by Agnès” is both a delightful eulogy to her career and an inspiring little homage for budding filmmakers.
Recounting her love for cinema with little details from some of the most influential films in the French New Wave, Varda makes inspiration, creation and sharing her art feel worthy of the legacy that it leaves. A masterclass conclusion to a life lived within a film and outside it.
Director: Ivan Ayr | Language: Hindi | Runtime: 97 Minutes
Ivan Ayr’s “Soni” is a tale about two working women who, in spite of what their respective job demands, are expected to behave a certain way. An unadulterated and honest look at how women are treated in a country that worships that as goddesses.
Tackling heady, contemporary issues that range from engraved patriarchy to sexual harassment the film is a character drama that questions gender roles and moral dilemmas through the lens of working women in modern-day India. Understated, well-acted and so piercingly realistic that it stays with you long after. Making it one of the best and finest India films of 2019.
18. Birds of Passage
Directors: Ciro Guerra, Cristina Gallego| Language: Spanish | Runtime: 125 Minutes
“Birds of Passage” is a roaring epic. Tracing the rise and fall of a small-time drug trafficker to a drug lord, this Ciro Guerra & Cristina Gallego follow up to the spiritual odyssey “Embrace of the Serpent” is a traditional imitation of an American gangster film.
The sheer scope and scale of this tale sprawl through decades. The family’s matriarch’s insistence on superstition, culture, and tradition gives this tragedy a Shakesperean edge. Shot with almost perfect precision, the film can be seen as a thought-provoking examination of war between two cultural ends.
Also, Check out – The 25 Best Foreign Films of 2018
17. It Must Be Heaven
Director: Elia Suleiman | Language: Arabic | Runtime: 97 Minutes
Elia Suleiman’s “It Must Be Heaven” is comic tripe where the jokes are deeply drenched in middle-eastern conflicts and political bureaucracies. It is as much fun decoding them as it is to see them unfold in the realm of the deadpan expressionist at the center.
It is a rebellion little film filled with an energy of annoyance – Both with the people who hold the power close and with nature itself. It won’t be wrong if I call it a far cry for letting things be the way they are – Absurd, Ironical and unlike their nature which was pre-defined in a place that seems like heaven from a distance.
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16. House of Hummingbird
Director: Kim Bora | Language: Korean | Runtime: 138 Minutes
Bora Kim’s debut film is an astonishing South-Korean drama about a neglected teenager. Set in a rapidly-changing time, this tale of an introverted young girl trying to find the essence of life doesn’t feel dated. It is one of the best and most powerful films of 2019.
In a world that is getting progressively intolerant, it talks about acceptance like no other film of 2019 does. It also subtly talks about abuse and the lonely, distant experience that most children have to face in a middle-class family. Featuring a brilliant, life-like performance by Ji-hu Park, the film manages to showcase a kind of longing in her eyes that can only be felt by someone who has witnessed something similar.
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15. Light of my Life
Director: Casey Affleck | Language: English | Runtime: 119 Minutes
Casey Affleck’s endearing tale of living a hand to mouth existence is powered by a strong undercurrent of trying to understand the life that will follow for the young kid he is trying to protect. In a world where there are no women anymore, Rag (A superb Anna Pniowsky) symbolizes hope. However, Affleck – who also co-stars as the over-protective and over-bearing father, Rag symbolizes an entity that reminds him of his human side.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Affleck’s “Light of My Life” is a searing, slow-burning drama about realizing when his seedling should be allowed to grow on its own. It also retells the coming of age story for the seedling to realize that forging a life and future is in its own hands.
14. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Director: Quentin Tarantino | Language: English | Runtime: 159 Minutes
In “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” Quentin Tarantino deports you to the Hollywood of the 60s. He also takes a back seat in the director’s chair by letting his characters co-exist in the world of his film as well as making them believable to co-exist in reality. He makes them part of history before changing the history itself.
While it can be rejected as just a ‘cool hangout movie’ or a ‘self-indulgent fallacy’ the film revels in all those criticism and becomes a colorful collage about the world of cinema. Featuring Leonardo Di Caprio and Brad Pitt as a dreamy bro-duo, the film showcases a mature filmmaker writing a big, bold love letter to the art of filmmaking and all its downfalls, frustration and absolute highs.
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13. A Hidden Life
Director: Terrence Malick | Language: English | Runtime: 180 Minutes
“A Hidden Life” is set in a time and place which doesn’t feel the least bit familiar to me. The act of defiance at its center, however, can’t feel any more relevant and urgent than it did back then. Terrence Malick is as interested in the crisis of faith as he is in showing how sticking by what one believes in can be a truly spiritual experience.
Taking the sacrilegious act by Franz (August Diehl) as a viewpoint, Malick takes us through a journey of resistance shown by a man whose uncompromisable human spirit is put to the test now and again. In doing so, he also invests you in a story of sacrifice for the greater good. It is a truly emotionally moving oddity that is hard to come by in the times we live in.
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Director: Jan Ole Gerster | Language: German | Runtime: 98 Minutes
On the onset, Jan Ole Gerster’s “Lara” feels like the story of a depressed, lonely woman left on her own. Not that it doesn’t deal with that singular theme, but with time, it grows into a haunting examination of the lies that govern over lives.
It is a complex and unsympathetic tale of a woman and a mother who has reached the end of the rope only to realize that the rope was built on nothing concrete. Late realization, dismissed dreams and suppressed guilt and anger all come up to the surfaces in Gerster’s brilliant character drama. Powered by a gorgeously shot day in the protagonist’s life, the film is ably supported by Corinna Harfouch’s performance.
Related to the Best Films Of 2019 – Lara (2019): ‘KVIFF’ Review – A Sombre Tale of Unrealised Dreams
11. The Lighthouse
Director: Robert Eggers | Language: English | Runtime: 110 Minutes
“The Lighthouse” is a maddening, straight-shot delirium of substantiated identity cross-overs and power-struggles. Robert Eggers’ fantastic sophomore stint might sound like a style over substance outing but its exasperating inaccessibility makes its weird edges even more fascinating.
Creating an atmosphere that constantly shifts gears between dark comedy, a drama about existential dread and a truly incredible myth-making horror show, Eggers has constructed a constantly fascinating conundrum that dwells in its chaos. Featuring two performances that throughout the length are trying to best each other, this is a truly unforgettable experience.
10. The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Director: Joe Talbot | Language: English | Runtime: 120 Minutes
Joe Talbot’s breathtaking first picture is a testament to anyone who finds it difficult to leave a home that has taught them everything. In “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” Jimmie and Font get obsessed with a home that supposedly belongs to his grandfather. What follows is a life-like wrestle with the child within.
Framed to perfection and shot with shrill energy that encompasses that sadness and melancholy of having a home, only to realize that it no more serves the purpose that it was supposed to, the film tells a tale of self-realization – motioning the camera through familiar places and things that feel like home. All the way cementing the hard-earned fact that moving on in life is as essential as sticking around.
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Director: Shanon Murphy | Language: English | Runtime: 118 Minutes
In Murphy’s brilliant debut feature, a young girl on the last stage of cancer falls in love with a drug dealer. While this could have easily turned into a sappy rom-com scenario, Murphy’s sure-shot touch helps it becomes a rhythmic parable of finding grace in the chaos.
“Babyteeth” is about people suffering from a void that they simply can’t fill up. The emptiness is collectively embraced and fought within a cancer drama where grief is a said consequence. Featuring a breakout performance by Eliza Scanlen, this is one of the biggest surprises of the year.
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8. Sorry We Missed You
Director: Ken Loach | Language: English | Runtime: 101 Minutes
British filmmaker Ken Loach has championed the stories of the working class for almost his entire career. His films are socially and politically relevant in a time where filmmakers dread taking a hold of those grounds. With “Sorry We Missed You” he chronicles the of the Truner family. He showcases, how the Turner couples struggle to balance their family life and work to survive in these hard times.
A tragic mirror-image of the shuddering weight of capitalism, “Sorry We Missed You” is yet another masterful, poignant drama by Ken Loach. Intimately woven into a narrative that breaks you down multiple times, this is a drama that oozes of universality, and hence becomes even more urgent and essential.
7. Pain and Glory
Director: Pedro Almodóvar | Language: Spanish | Runtime: 113 Minutes
Almodóvar has made more than 2 dozen feature films that evidently have a unique, distant and tender examination of his own personal relationships. Yet, “Pain and Glory” gives you the feeling that you are visiting his mind for the very first time. This shows that he is not only a master filmmaker who has a great grasp over the craft but that his humane touch is still present in these colorful facades that he grooms them into.
Self-reflective in nature the film looks at the past and the present with an equally piercing yet magical gaze. Turning them both into an imitation that uplifts the artist’s struggle through a period of sexual awakening. Featuring a life-like performance by Antonio Banderas, this is the kind of cinema that lights up your memories and delights you for the journey ahead.
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6. Her Smell
Director: Alex Ross Perry | Language: English| Runtime: 136 Minutes
There’s only one phrase that defines Becky Something and that is ‘self-destructive.’ The musician has a successful band and a career that is on the rise but she just can’t keep it all together. Unlike most stories about musicians going down the drain of drug abuse and self-decay, Alex Ross Perry’s “Her Smell” doesn’t give you a reason to care for Becky.
And yet, he carves a scintillating tale of a woman’s redemption from the bounds of self-imposed hell. Elisabeth Moss ropes in the single greatest performances of the year in a film that frustrates and gleefully uplifts you out of nowhere. It is a motion picture that uses a 3 act structure that has never been done before – at least, not in this way!
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5. So Long, My Son
Director: Xiaoshuai Wang | Language: Chinese | Runtime: 185 Minutes
In the final moments of “So Long, My Son” you can literally feel you have lived with the now-aging couple at its center. Their tragic life weighs heavy on you and there’s no way you can’t feel their pain. Such is the scope and lingering feeling of sadness Xiaoshuai Wang leaves you with.
“So Long My Son” is a profoundly epic story of two married families that encompasses the change of time and state in China’s landscape with a clear, opaque and sincere eye. Structured in a way that makes you sink into the life of this resilient yet ordinary people, this is a humane drama that truly earns its runtime.
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Director: Trey Edward Shults | Language: English | Runtime: 135 Minutes
Trey Edward Shults has been trying to play with the audio-visual sequencing of filmmaking for quite some time now. His dramas have felt like thrillers which could horrify the soul out of you. With “Waves” he has successfully constructed a drama about the downward and upward trajectory of two teenagers who belong to the same family. In doing so, he takes you on an anxiety-inducing rundown into the world of an African-American family trying to keep it together.
Powerfully acted and exquisitely well-timed, “Waves” is a cinematic oddity filled with emotional turmoils that achieve the rare feat of representing the internal conflict that contemporary teenagers wrestle with every day. It’s an ambitious film that seamlessly manages to replicate both the distressing and calming effect of trying to understand the necessity of love and compassion.
3. Marriage Story
Director: Noah Baumbach | Language: English | Runtime: 137 Minutes
Separation stories are often prone to taking sides. Take Kramer Vs. Kramer for example. It mostly favored Hoffman’s side drawing a clear structure where you lean towards taking sides. In Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story,” it’s almost impossible to take sides. Nicole and Charlie are both incredibly detailed characters who are both right and wrong in their own little corners. Their shared love is personified in Henery (their son) and it breaks your heart to see him so broken about his love for them both.
The impeccably written script of Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” doesn’t create villains out of people. It draws you into its funny yet sincere depiction of human nature creating a deeply seated sense of melancholy that steams out of hope. It’s a strange balance that Baumbach maintains but he does it with great maturity; making this one of his finest works yet.
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2. The Souvenir
Director: Joanna Hogg | Language: English | Runtime: 120 Minutes
Doomed love stories often make for some interesting canvasing if done right. Joanna Hogg’s semi-autobiographical “The Souvenir” can be easily dismissed for having no concrete plot. However, it is what the film examines that makes for interesting memorabilia. Hogg reaches out into her past and fixates on the life of a young filmmaker trying to make her first film. She puts her protagonist Julie in a quagmire of self-doubt to trace a life-altering period of her existence.
Set in the early ’80s, “The Souvenir” is one of the most complete works of a genuine filmmaker who is passionate about the stories she tells. It’s intimate, personal and heartbreaking to put your life onto a cinematic canvas and even more so when it is about a toxic romance that serves as a trigger for life’s ultimate choices.
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1. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Director: Céline Sciamma | Language: French | Runtime: 122 Minutes
There’s an abundance of films about romance each year. There’s no second say that desire, longing, and heartbreak have been recurring themes in contemporary films. However, Céline Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” casually reinvents everything wrong with romantic films and how we – as an audience view them. Sciamma reshuffles the female gaze and ordinance of a muse to showcase a razor-sharp back and forth between two women falling in love with each other.
With a pique vision of artistic flourishes, Sciamma paints a vibrant story about companionship and the eventuality of heartbreak. Powered by nuanced performances from Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel, Portrait of a Lady on Fire embodies the spirit of a truly feminist filmmaker at the top of her game. Resulting in the most brilliant film of 2019.